With the pandemic in the rearview mirror after a challenging 16-month stretch, this week’s Philomath Frolic & Rodeo offers a venue for socializing with friends, celebrating with family and just getting out of the house to enjoy a semblance of normalcy.
The state’s recent lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions means the rodeo arena stands can fill up with people that don’t need face coverings and can sit near one another.
Darrell Hinchberger, Frolic & Rodeo board of supervisors president, said it was a relief to see Oregon open back up. The board took a chance a few months ago to move full steam ahead in hopes that restrictions would go away.
If they had remained in place, Hinchberger said about the limited rodeo attendance, “It would’ve hurt the pocketbook quite a bit to only have 50% of people sitting in there.”
Instead, it’s the pre-COVID brand of Frolic arriving Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Rodeo performances are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. each of those nights. A slack rodeo with free admission is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday.
Online ticket sales started a little bit slow, presumably due to uncertainties surrounding whether the rodeo would actually happen along with those attendance restrictions that had originally been established. But the ticket sales pace has picked up with the news that the Frolic & Rodeo would be fully open and operating at full capacity.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve seen ticket sales go up pretty dramatically,” said Chris Workman, who sits on the board and heads up the events and publicity committees.
As of Tuesday morning through online sales, tickets for the Friday and Saturday night performances had already sold more than half of available seats with about a third of the seats reserved for Thursday night.
“Going from not having any online sales three years ago to today, we’re feeling pretty good about the online ticket sales,” Workman said. “I think people are liking that option.”
A significant number of rodeo fans also traditionally purchase tickets on the day of the event.
“We’ll always have that option available but having the reserved seating has been a draw for people that don’t want to show up three or four hours ahead of the show to get the seats that they want,” Workman said.
Hinchberger said he believes a certain number of rodeo competitors chose not to join the Northwest Pro Rodeo Association circuit this year. There had been the hope that higher-quality cowboys and cowgirls would be in Philomath with so fewer rodeo options available. However, contestant numbers were down at the Eugene Pro Rodeo on July 2-4 and the St. Paul Rodeo on July 4.
“There are going to be a certain number of them not ready for those events, they’re not in shape … they’re athletes and they haven’t had to do it in a year and a half,” Hinchberger said, adding that some chose full-time jobs over the rodeo circuit this summer because of uncertainties. “We’re not in control of that, that’s the NPRA, and we take that chance every year.”
Whatever rodeo talent shows up to ride, rope, race and wrestle, the surroundings remain mostly the same. A familiar voice will be in the arena with Scott Allen handling announcing duties.
“He does a really nice job and he loves Philomath,” Workman said. “That’s what really makes it special — he does appreciate being in Philomath and he tells us that he’ll do Philomath forever. It’s something he looks forward to and he has good friends here that he looks forward to seeing every year.”
B Bar D Rodeo returns as the stock contractor. The bullfighters will be Jason McCall and Tory Cooper and a new rodeo clown will be in the arena with Clint “Wolfey” Selvester. Jason Buchanan will handle music and sound.
Selvester is a California native whose nickname originated with his creation years ago of a 7-foot-high bull made from foam that he named “Wolfey” in honor of Wolfman, a bull that went down in rodeo history. Wade Leslie became the only bull rider to score a perfect 100 while riding Wolfman in 1991.
For the second straight rodeo, wild steer racing will be featured during an evening rodeo intermission.
There will be no Philomath Frolic & Rodeo queen and princess competition this week with those tryouts scheduled for later this summer. Jaymie Belcher, who was chosen to represent the Frolic & Rodeo for the 2020 season, agreed to stay on for a second year with last year’s schedule wiped out.
Friday night fireworks
The Frolic & Rodeo’s popular fireworks show will light up Philomath skies following the Friday night rodeo, the approximate start time at around 9:30 p.m.
With the region going through a dry stretch, some in the community might wonder if it’s a good idea to shoot off fireworks. With a professional fireworks contractor in place and the local fire department keeping an eye on things, Workman has no qualms about moving forward with the show.
“We are concerned about fireworks every year when we light them off, which is why we contract out to a professional — they’re licensed and bonded, this is what they do,” Workman said. “As part of our contract, we are required to have Philomath & Fire on stand-by.”
Philomath Fire & Rescue Capt. Rich Saalsaa said the fireworks launch platform will be inspected and personnel will wet the grounds in the surrounding area before the show. Fire crews will be on site with equipment, including two brush rigs, in case there are any issues, such as a misfire, for a rapid response, he said.
The launch site is located in Marys River Park, which Workman said is shut down from public access on the day of the event.
“In years past, sparks hit the ground and if they start to smolder, they go out and hit them with a fire extinguisher and it’s out — that’s what they do,” Workman said.
On a side note, Saalsaa said extra staff will be brought in to cover the fire station for any fire or medical calls that come up while firefighters are involved with the fireworks display.
“In my view, the folks that run the display are professionals and would not do anything that would put the public in danger,” Saalsaa said.
On the Fourth of July, most fireworks shows around the state apparently went off without a hitch, although a handful were canceled such as those in Portland and Corvallis.
The Grand Parade
The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo Grand Parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and will follow a route down Applegate Street from Philomath High School to Philomath Community Library. The Frolic & Rodeo board chose frontline medical responders as the honored grand marshals.
“First responders, medical responders just seemed like an obvious choice,” Workman said. “We’ll have a large number from Samaritan Health and Philomath Family Medicine that will be on our float.”
Workman said beyond those that appear on the float will be several other frontline workers that will choose to not be recognized and watch like everybody else with their families.
“We just want people to make sure we’re thinking of them and we’re appreciative of them and the extra work they’ve done over the last year and a half during the pandemic,” Workman said. “I think honoring them as the grand marshals of the parade is more than appropriate and as the Frolic board, we just wanted to make sure they know we appreciate all of the work they’ve done. If we can do one small little thing, one gesture to help honor them, that’s what we wanted to do.”
Workman said the number of registered entries for the parade is high this year. For those who don’t sign up digitally ahead of time, they can still join the parade with registration and lining up beginning at 7 a.m. in the PHS parking lot.
Those who do register that morning would still need to go online via cellphone or other device and sign participation and insurance waivers. Organizers prefer entrants to sign up ahead of time so they have an idea of what to expect for entries.
The celebration this year actually gets started a day earlier with Wednesday evening’s Home Run Derby and continues into Saturday evening with the final rodeo performance.
Following is a rundown of various events and activities offered at this year’s Frolic & Rodeo:
Home Run Derby
The Home Run Derby, scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Philomath High’s varsity softball field, returns for the second time but with a few changes. Organizers are offering two brackets for adults and teens for the home run competition. In addition, for children 12 and under, there will be a farthest-hit contest.
“This year, we planned it for an evening and on Wednesday,” Workman said, a reference to a hot Saturday afternoon derby in 2019. “It’s just a fun night to come down to the varsity softball field and watch your neighbors try to hit the ball.”
Workman foresees the event growing in the future, perhaps even with organizations such as the Corvallis Knights or Oregon State baseball getting involved in some way, to make it even bigger.
Another popular event returning to the Frolic will be a cornhole tournament — but instead of just one, organizers have expanded the activity to three events.
“Two years ago, it was really popular and there was a lot of demand to do more of that, so this year, we split it up into all three night,” Workman said.
The Thursday night tournament will be for youth under age 18, the Friday event will be for adults ages 18 on up and on Saturday, it’s an open tournament for anyone of any age to enter.
The Frolic’s Kids Corner will provide youth with opportunities to get artsy and get exercise from 5-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2-7 p.m. Saturday.
“There will be arts and crafts things to do and take home, things that are quick and fun,” Workman said.
Peak Elite, a gymnastics academy based in Corvallis, will also be on hand with an obstacle course and active fitness activities.
Workman said there will not be an animal meet-and-greet this year with too much to coordinate in too little time.
Food Booths, Craft Vendors
The Frolic will feature several types of food booths, craft vendors and others that will be participating this year.
“There’s a good mix of non-food vendors that want to be there as well, which I think is a good tribute to wanting to be in a fun atmosphere with a lot of people around,” Workman said. “There will be plenty of food, all of your favorites.”
One vendor will actually challenge participants — you need to be ages 12 and older — to show off their axe-throwing skills. A professional axe thrower will be on hand with instruction and pointers. In fact, throwers can pay extra and challenge the pro with any winners getting a T-shirt.
NPRA Rodeo Performances
The NPRA rodeo includes bareback riding, barrel racing, breakaway roping, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping. The arena features three general admission sections with seating on a first-come, first-served basis and two reserved seating sections with seats picked out ahead of time.
Tickets are required for ages 13 and older, junior tickets can be purchased for ages 6-12 and children 5 and under are free when sitting on a lap. A 20% discount is available for the weekend pass.
Frolic Dance/After Party
Scruggs and the Steelbenders will provide live music during the Friday and Saturday night dances in the Yew Wood Corral. On Friday night, a local DJ, who is a Frolic & Rodeo volunteer, will play fan favorites.
The Yew Wood Corral has expanded to open up the concert venue and beer garden area to accommodate more people. Fencing panels were removed to allow rodeo viewing from the beer garden, Workman said. The Frolic had experimented with the concept in 2019 and after a favorable response, decided to open it up even more.
Frolic 5K Family Fun Run/Walk
The 5-kilometer run returns for a second time and online registration is required for the event, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Friday. The starting line will be located behind the rodeo arena grandstands.
Registration options are available for teams, individuals and families. Same-day online registration will be available up to the start of the race. Parking at the rodeo grounds on Friday morning will be free.
In addition to the 5K course, there will be a 1K family-friendly course.
Sidewalk Chalk Roundup
The Sidewalk Chalk Roundup — a sidewalk coloring contest for all ages — is scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Philomath City Hall. Participation is free and no registration is required.
Lions Club Rodeo Breakfast
The Philomath Lions Club Annual Rodeo Breakfast will run for three hours from 6:30-9:30 a.m., in the rodeo grounds shelter area.
Professional Lumberjack Competition
Professional lumberjack competitors will square off from 3-6 p.m. Saturday at the rodeo grounds. The event was established as an exhibition but has evolved to a higher level and has become a fan favorite.
“Cody Labahn took over as the chair and made it a professional lumberjack competition where we have competing professionals that travel the circuit just like our rodeo cowboys and cowgirls do,” Workman said. “They have a circuit set up where every weekend they’re in a different spot competing as lumberjacks and doing all of their different events and skills.”
Bleachers will be set up for spectators but those attending can also bring their own camping chairs to sit in. Admission is free.
“If you’re lucky, you can get some sawdust in your hair,” Workman said. “It’s a pretty fun event and just to hear those machines going and to see the skills and everything they do; it’s pretty amazing.”
Frolic PYAC Fish Rodeo
The sixth annual fish rodeo, which is organized and serves as a fundraiser for the Philomath Youth Activities Club, gives youngsters ages 12 and under an opportunity to catch a live trout with their bare hands. The event, which runs from 4-5 p.m. Saturday, will feature 200 trout that are released into a pool of water at the rodeo grounds. Fish are even cleaned and cooked on site, if desired, or can be bagged to be taken home. Tickets ($10) can be purchased in advance at PYAC or at Saturday’s event.
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